2016 Guy Harvey Scholars
Chelsey Crandall is a Ph.D. student studying interdisciplinary ecology in the University of Florida’s School of Natural Resources and Ecology. She is using social science methods to understand how anglers and others connected with fishing in the state, interact with fisheries management and science. She also regularly contributes to the Florida Fisheries Science blog, and is the cofounder of Ocypode Productions, where she has helped create two films and 3 educational shorts to date,
Holden Harris is a Ph.D. student studying interdisciplinary ecology at the University of Florida’s School of Natural Resources and the Environment. He is evaluating whether a commercial fishery can function as a long-term control for the invasive lionfish in Florida. Harris is also conducting research at the UF’s new Nature Coast Biological Station to develop management plans for the Big Bend region’s most important recreational fish species, spotted seatrout. Ultimately, Harris hopes to continue to be involved in fisheries management in his budding career.
Sarah Hoffmann is a Ph.D. student studying integrative biology at Florida Atlantic University. She is investigating the interaction between ecology, function and morphology, or form and structure, of the head and pectoral fins across many shark species. Hoffman has worked on research projects with the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the American Fisheries Society. Although she has no specific career goal in mind yet, she is certain she wants a job that allows her the freedom to explore original research questions in her field.
Louis Penrod is an undergraduate studying marine biology and aquaculture at the Florida Institute of Technology. He is researching the feeding patterns of the invasive lionfish in a range of habitats and water temperatures. Although Penrod is sure he wants to work as a marine scientist, he is still keeping his options open for his specific career goals. He says his “grand plans” for graduate school involve designing and building a sustainable aquaculture facility.
James Kilfoil is a Ph.D. student studying biological science at Florida International University. He is developing tools, such as video surveys, to improve the way data is collected for resource monitoring programs. He believes these tools will be particularly important for monitoring elasmobranch species such as sharks and stingrays. Kilfoil plans to pursue a research career in academia or for an agency like NOAA once he graduates.
Krystan Wilkinson is a Ph.D. student in the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Florida. She is investigating predator-prey interactions between sharks and bottlenose dolphins in Sarasota Bay. Part of her research will involve tagging and tracking adult bull sharks. Wilkinson, who first was inspired to be a marine scientist in third grade after reading Eugenie Clark’s Shark Lady, hopes to pursue a research career with a nonprofit or government agency.
Jake Rennert is a master’s student studying marine biology at the Florida Institute of Technology. He is researching the age and growth patterns of bonefish in various habitats around the island of Cuba. Rennert said he was inspired to conduct this research because of his long-term love of fly fishing. He said he was taught at a young age to understand the responsibility of conservation. His career goal is to become a lead biologist for the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Julie Vecchio is a Ph.D. student studying marine science at the University of South Florida. She is using natural tags, or chemical signatures within the tissues of fish, to understand the movements and food preferences of fish over their lifetime. She has previously worked as a research assistant for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, a research associate for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and as a contract video technician for NOAA Fisheries. From 1999-2002, she also worked as an educator for various marine science camps.
2016 Aylesworth Scholars
Cecily Burton is pursuing her master’s degree in environmental science at Florida Gulf Coast University while also working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commision to study populations of adult and juvenile fish in Charlotte Harbor. For her master’s thesis, she is locating endangered smalltooth sawfish that have been tagged with acoustic transmitters to see which habitats they are using most. Her career goal is to work in the conservation and management of endangered species.
Kelli O’Donnell is a contract fisheries biologist for the NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service and a master’s student studying fisheries and aquatic sciences at the University of Florida. Her research is looking at the growth of Staghorn coral using different growing methods to see which restoration practices will be the most successful. Her career goal is to obtain a full-time position with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission or the National Marine Fisheries Service.
2016 Chuck Skoch Scholar
Amy Polen is a high school senior at Palm Beach Central High School. Polen’s award-winning project focused on the effect of warming waters on mussel populations. She conducted her research over the course of three years. This year, Polen shifted her focus to invasive mussel species. She investigated whether easily-available enzymes would be able to control the spread of invasives like zebra mussels in New England, or green-lipped mussels in Florida. Polen, who will be graduating with a 3.9 unweighted GPA, has been accepted into the honors college at the University of South Florida where she plans to major in environmental science and policy. She also plans to earn a graduate degree in the marine sciences.
2016 Florida Outdoor Writers Association Scholars
Hannah Brown is a Ph.D. student studying interdisciplinary ecology at the University of Florida. After earning her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the New College or Florida, she went on to complete a master’s degree in mass communication from the University of Florida. Her dissertation research aims to improve communication between researchers conducting oyster reef restoration around the state. When she isn’t working on her dissertation, she is writing news stories and managing social media for UF’s School of Natural Resources and Environment. In her free time, Brown hosts a YouTube cooking show, Vegan Cooking with Hannah Brown and is co-editor of a blog, called The Renaissance Woman. Brown has previously worked as a professional journalist for publications including the Gainesville Sun, the Lake City Reporter and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Abigail Engleman is a Ph.D. student studying marine conservation biology at Florida State University. For her dissertation, she is studying the human impacts on coral reefs and how to conduct tourism sustainably. The experienced scuba diver, never gets bored of the “blue frontier.” Engleman hopes to spend her career as a scientist, and as a writer, telling some of her research and ocean-related stories. She recently worked as an intern in NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries helping to craft education and outreach materials. As part of her internship, she wrote a magazine article about NOAA’s Blue Star sustainable tourism program which is set to be published in Dive Training magazine later this summer. Engleman earned her bachelor’s degree in marine science from the University of South Carolina.
Robert Roemer, a monthly columnist for Coastal Angler magazine, is an M.S. student studying marine affairs and police at the University of Miami. Before starting his master’s degree, he worked as a shark management and policy specialist for NOAA’s Highly Migratory Species Division and as a fisheries technician for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. For his master’s thesis, he is investigating the role humans play on the movements of sharks.To help communicate shark science, he started his own research blog that showcases new and timely research from around the world. But, recently he has shifted his focus to writing articles and managing social media for his lab’s blog instead. Roemer also serves as the outreach event coordinator for Beneath the Waves, Inc., an organization that aims to raise awareness about marine issues through video. He holds a bachelor’s degree in marine science from Coastal Carolina University.
2016 Florida Sea Grant Scholars
Jennifer Adler, is a Ph.D. student studying interdisciplinary ecology at the University of Florida. With her scholarship and her knack for underwater photography, she is creating a web-based, interactive tour of the Florida Springs. Adler, who also received a National Geographic Young Explorer’s grant for the project hopes to share her project with school children to help spark a “water ethic” or an affinity for water conservation in the state of Florida. She also plans to use some of the funds to take elementary-aged children on educational field trips about the springs.
Sarah Huff is earning her master’s degree in environmental science at Florida Atlantic University. She is studying the effects of Sphaeroma terebrans, a highly destructive, mangrove boring isopod that causes extensive damage to the prop roots of red mangroves. Huff is conducting her research in partnership with the Florida Oceanographic Society and will be determining the range and damage rate caused S. terebrans. She will also be looking at whether epibionts, or organisms that live on the surface of another organisms—in this case oyster spat on mangrove roots—can reduce the burrowing capabilities of S. terebrans and curb extensive damage to the mangroves.
Kevin Jensen is an undergraduate studying marine biology at New College of Florida. His research will consist of identifying possible nursery habitats for sharks in Sarasota Bay. Last semester, he took academic leave to complete an internship at the Bimini Biological Field Station where he assisted with shark ecology projects. He says sharks are top predators of the ocean and keep the oceans healthy and thriving. And, like many fish, sharks use nurseries to provide a safe haven from larger predators so they can grow to become an adult. Because there are several identified nursery areas close to the study area, he is expecting to find that Sarasota Bay is a nursery for several species.
Margaret Vogel is earning her Ph.D. in biology at Florida State University. The aim of her research is to identify the role tiny bacteria, or microbes, play in overall seagrass health and to develop management strategies based on her results. In many marine organisms, external biofilms and mucus layers serve as a habitat for microbial communities that act as a secondary form of protection from potentially harmful bacteria. The main focus of her research is to identify the microbial communities associated with seagrass blades and how the make-up of these communities may vary with changes in temperature and light availability.
Nan Yao is a Ph.D. student studying marine biology at Florida International University. Her research project is using stable isotope analysis to determine the origin and timing of when lobster larvae come into Florida waters each year. This information, she says, will help improve stock assessment models. She says this research is necessary because right now, the origins of Florida spiny lobster populations are not clear. Some studies have concluded that southeast U.S. stock highly depends on transport from Caribbean stocks, while other studies show Florida’s stock contributes to the lobster populations in the Caribbean. With the connectivity derived, she can further evaluate the effect of fisheries management strategies in Caribbean countries on our U.S. spiny lobster fisheries.
2017 Knauss Marine Policy Fellows
Adrian Mahoney recently graduated from the University of Florida Levin College of Law Conservation Clinic where he earned a certificate in land use and environmental law. Mahoney received his bachelor’s degree in environmental science from the University of Florida and has completed an internship with the Tropical Audubon Society, where he worked on the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project. While in law school, he conducted legal research on issues associated with water law, land use law and environmental restoration as a legal clerk for the Everglades Foundation. In Washington he will be working for the NOAA Research Office of the Assistant Administrator, where he will collaborate with senior leaders to support science dealing with climate, weather, oceans and coasts.
Brendan Talwar is a recent graduate of Florida State University, where he earned his master’s degree in biological science. For his graduate research, he investigated the mortality rate of deep-sea bycatch species, such as sharks, after being caught on longlines or in traps. Talwar earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from Furman University. Since then, he worked as a research assistant for many organizations including the Shark Research and Conservation Program in the Bahamas, the Shark Bay Ecosystem Research Project in Australia and the Belize Marine Research and Education Center. He has also served as an instructor for a tropical island ecology field course at Monmouth University and a marine science education instructor for FSU’s Sea-to-See program. In Washington he will serve as the communications and policy analyst for the Marine Mammal Commission, an independent government organization that provides scientific information about human impacts on marine mammals and their ecosystems.
NOAA Coastal Management Fellows
Caitlin Pomerance graduated from the University of Florida Levin College of Law, earning her environmental and land use law certificate. During her two-year fellowship, she will be working to implement Marine Industry and Coastal Construction Impact (MICCI) recommendations as well as outreach and education regarding impacts to coral reefs. She will also be assisting with the development of a coral reef management strategy for Southeast Florida. She considers the development of the coral reef management strategy a “graduation” from one of her larger projects in which she assisted with the development of a marine protected area in the Bahamas. Pomerance’s career goal is to become an ocean policy expert in order to conserve and protect the world’s oceans.
NOAA Fisheries/Sea Grant Graduate Fellowship– Population and Ecosystem Dynamics
Nicholas Ducharme-Barth is a doctoral student studying fisheries and aquatic science at the University of Florida. During his fellowship, he will be developing tools that help understand fishing fleet behavior by looking at how they react to changing regulations or catastrophic events such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. He hopes his research will provide fisheries scientists and managers a better understanding of how fisheries might respond to similar scenarios in the future.
Matthew Nuttall is a doctoral student studying marine biology and fisheries at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. During his fellowship, he will be using ecosystem models to explore how hypoxia, harmful algal blooms, and predator and prey species interact with an economically important fish, the Gulf menhaden. He hopes his research will contribute to the next stock assessment of Gulf menhaden.
Nature Coast Biological Station/Florida Sea Grant Scholar
Hannah Brown is a Ph.D. student studying interdisciplinary ecology at the University of Florida. Her dissertation research is focused on oyster restoration projects along the Gulf Coast and how various stakeholders involved in those projects communicate and network. She says the goal of her project is to assess how the knowledge about restoration projects, held by oyster growers, coastal managers and scientists, is shared between groups to make recommendations for future efforts.